Pragmatic Sanction was a general term (from παᾶγμα, business) for all important ordinances of Church or State-those perhaps more properly which were enacted in public assemblies with the counsel of eminent jurisconsults or pragmatici. The term originated in the Byzantine Empire, and signified there a public and solemn decree by a prince, as distinguished from the simple rescript which was a declaration of law in answer to a question propounded by an individual. But the most familiar application of the term is to the important articles decided on by the great assembly held at Bourges (q.v.) in 1438, convoked and presided over by Charles VII. These articles have been regarded as the great bulwark of the French Church against the usurpation of Rome. King Louis IX had drawn up a pragmatic sanction in 1268 against the encroachments of the Church and court of Rome. It related chiefly to the right of the Gallican Church with reference to the selections of bishops and clergy. But the great articles of 1438 entirely superseded those of Louis IX; for though they reasserted the rights and privileges claimed by the Gallican Church under that monarch, the articles were chiefly founded on the decrees of the Council of Basle. Some of them relate to the periodical assembling and superior authority of general councils; some to the celebration of divine offices and other matters not connected with papal prerogation; but of the rest it has been truly said that the abuses of the papal prerogation against which they were directed were chiefly connected with its avarice. This was the most unpopular of the vices of the Holy See, and was at the bottom of more than half the grievances which alienated its children from it. Pope Pius II succeeded in obtaining the abrogation of this sanction for a time; but the Parliament of Paris refused to sanction the ignominious conduct of Louis XI in setting it aside, and he was compelled to restore it to its original influential position.
Accordingly the pragmatic sanction continued in force till Francis I's concordat in 1516 supplanted it. Although by the concordat privileges were given and received on both sides, yet the real advantages were on the side of Rome, which advantages it has ever since been her constant aim to improve. See Jervis, Hist. Ch. of France, 1, 23 sq.; Hist. of Popery, p. 202; Gieseler, Eccles. Hist. (see Index to vol. 3); Fisher, Hist. of the Ref. p. 48, 49; Mosheim, Eccles. Hist. vol. 3; Milman, Hist. Latin Christianity (see Index to vol. 8); Hardwick, Hist. of the Church in the Middle Ages, p. 272, 358, 362; id. Ref. p. 7, 353; Waddington, Eccles. Hist. p. 576; Ranke, Hist. of the Papacy, 1, 28 sq.; Aizog, Kirchengesch. 2, 48, 180, 189, 191; Ebrard, Dogmengesch. 4, 206; Brit. Quar. Rev. April, 1873, p. 273.